Challenging the Mandate of Heaven

Popular Protest in Modern China

Author: Elizabeth J. Perry

Abstract:

Arguing that popular protest has played an unusual role in bestowing political legitimacy in China, this article traces continuities in state responses to protest movements from imperial days to the present. The author compares the government's recent handling of three different types of protest: economically motivated actions by hard-pressed workers and farmers, nationalistically inspired demonstrations by patriotic students, and (at greater length) religiously rooted resistance by zealous believers. The central authorities' tolerance toward localized strikes and tax riots, and their overt encouragement of protests against the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, contrasts sharply with the harsh and unrelenting campaign of repression that has been directed against Falun Gong adherents. Explanations for these variant state responses are sought in historically grounded assessments of the political implications of different types of popular protest.
Regions: East Asia
Countries: China

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